Thursday, July 31, 2008

Have You Heard the Latest?

And then there was the 93 year old gentleman who attempted to tell me about the latest kind of surgery they were doing on eyes. He asked me if I'd heard of "radar" surgery yet. Nope. That's a new one on me.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Que Sera Sera

As a little girl, my mom would sing me this song. I thought she sounded so pretty...even better than Doris Day. I remember asking her (really begging her) to tell me if I would be pretty or rich. Just like the song, I wanted to know!!

Well, I still want to know how life is going to turn out. Don't you? I have a tough time being in limbo. One of my least favorite expressions of my dear husband is "well see." I don't want to wait and see. I want to know now!!

I remember a pretty rough time many years ago. Our babysitter had become very ill. They determined that she had bone cancer. She went through all the treatments and with each treatment I'd pray that God would heal her. My prayers went to pleading with God to an angry "whatever, God, because you're going to do what you want to do anyway." Not proud of that, but it's honest.

Anyway, our babysitter, Jennifer died. She was sixteen years old. I stayed angry for a long time. How could we explain this to our girls? Why did it have to happen? All these years later, I still don't know, but I do know a few things now.
  • No matter what, God loves me (and you).
  • No matter what, I'm his daughter.
  • No matter what, He's got my back.
  • And no matter what, I want to trust him with the big picture.
Hard times have happened since then and I'd like to say I'm learning to more quickly trust him more fully. I'm more quickly praying "whatever" but it's said with hands turned up and open to him rather than closed and in fists.

My friends, please remind me of this when adversity comes my it inevitably will. I'll remind you, in love, too.

Que sera, sera. The future's not ours to see, but God sees. That's good enough for me today.

Singing in my Father's lap,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"I Can't Breathe Here"

One of the delightful aspects of my job at the retirement community in Atlanta occurred at Christmas time. We were blessed to have many gift donations for our residents. As staff members, it was our privilege to deliver these boxes of sunshine to our residents.

Our Executive Director, Rita, and I were enjoying a pleasant conversation with Mrs. Rainey one day in her aaprtment. We were delivering her Christmas gift from an anonymous giver.

Mrs. Rainey was confined to her apartment due to poor health and the necessity of minute-by-minute oxygen. Her oxygen tube and tank are as much a part of her as are her eyes, nose and mouth. It was a more vital extension of herself in some ways.

You can imagine my horror when I looked down and discovered Rita standing on Mrs. Rainey's oxygen tube! In fact, not one, but both feet were firmly planted. Seeing that Mrs. Rainey was not yet turning blue, but no longer speaking, I deliberated what to do.

Do I?
a. Hurriedly push Rita (my boss) off the oxygen tube and try to make it seem like an accident? "Oops, I lost my balance and knocked you over. Sorry!!"
b. Knock Rita off the oxygen tube and tell her she is standing on Mrs. Rainey's tube. Embarrassment all around for Rita and Mrs. Rainey.
c. Divert Mrs. Rainey's attention and tell Rita she's on her oxygen tube. Excitedly blurt out, "Oh, WOW! Look at that airplane. Isn't it flying awfully close to our building?"
d. Encourage Rita to join me over by some of Mrs. Rainey's family photos.

What would you do? I chose "d". I went over to Mrs. Rainey's family photos and asked Rita to join me. We oohed and aahed over her grandchildren and great grandchildren and I watched as Mrs. Rainey started to regain color again. :)

Upon leaving I told Rita we almost had another death on our hands. She looked at me quizzically and asked me what I meant. I told her about the oxygen tube. She almost passed out!

What we don't know maybe can't hurt us...but we can't be so sure about someone else!

Deep breathing,

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Let's Catch the Thief!

I would like to invite you to join me on my personal journey through the Harris' family burglary. Vascular Dementia (a form of dementia resembling Alzheimer's Disease) robbed me and my brother of our mom and my children of their grandmother. It beat them up and stole my dad's wife. It robbed my aunts of their sister. It stripped my mom's friend of their dear friend.

I’ll never forget when the robbery started. At first there were the smaller concerns: Mom couldn’t find her car keys. (Haven’t we all been there?) When Mom took our daughters to the mall she got them ice cream when they got there and frozen yogurt before they left. I just thought she was spoiling them like all good grandmothers do. Then another time she couldn’t find her car in a parking lot and had to call my dad to drive her around so that she could find it.

But then, the more wrenching things started to happen. Mom and Dad came over for Christmas and I baked Dilly Bread…a favorite recipe for holidays in our family. Mom walked in the kitchen and said, “Oh! That smells so good. What is it?” When I told her it was our Dilly Bread recipe, she commented that she had never heard of it. I felt I’d been punched in the stomach!

My dad showed more concern as he told me that Mom was doing things like putting the ham in the kitchen cabinet, asking him every five minutes when her doctor’s appointment was, and various other situations of concern.

While I begged Daddy to have Mom seen at the doctor about her forgetfulness, he couldn’t broach the subject with her. Finally when things got so bad, we had a family meeting. Mom admitted to being forgetful but she didn’t think the doctors could do anything. So…nothing was done.

I lived three hours away but began calling my parents daily. My dad encouraged me to not call them daily as my mother was feeling I was checking up on “the crazy woman.” When I communicated with her family practice doctor about our concerns, he metaphorically patted me on the head and told me that “forgetfulness is a normal part of aging.” NOT! I’ve worked in the aging industry since 1982 and while it’s true that older people generally get Alzheimer’s Disease or some form of dementia when they’re older, not younger, it is not a given that one will develop the disease.

The day that is forever etched in my brain is the day I got the call from my dad. He said, “Susan, I don’t know what to do. Your mom is telling me she sees her brother, Paul, (he was deceased) and she is making no sense at all.” I told my dad to call 911. Driving to Birmingham I questioned what I’d find. I pleaded with God to protect my mom and to give me wisdom as I lovingly cared for her and my dad.

Upon arrival at Mom’s hospital room, my world was forever changed. A nurse tending to Mom turned to me and said to her, “Well, who has come to visit you?” Without missing a beat, Mom said, “Cotton.” Cotton was a friend of Mom’s.

my momma didn’t know me. The unthinkable had happened. The world took on a different hue and started spinning uncontrollably. We were told by the neurologist that she had Vascular Dementia and that any type of extenuating health situation would cause her to go to the next lower plateau: a urinary tract infection, a fall, even a bad cold.

Plans were made for mom’s return home. First, we had to get all healthy foods for her, put out more family photos so she might remember us, buy a gate for the stairs so she wouldn’t go downstairs and outside during the middle of the night. WAIT! A gate for the stairs? Isn’t that something you get for your pet or a toddler? That’s not something you buy for your mother!

My dad could never bring himself to put my mom in a dementia care facility and dutifully and lovingly cared for her until his body wore out and he literally died on the floor of the professional building of his doctor. I believe he was tired and needed to get some rest. I believe this robber also took my dad from me.

Fast forward to today. My mom is in a nursing center and sleeps most of the time. She lives in the same city as my brother. He visits her daily and when he can spend the time to wake her after every bite she will eat, but most of the time it takes her an hour to eat a meal. She is on hospice and is living the last stages of her life. She never wanted to live this way.

As with any robbery, I’ve experienced the gamut of emotions associated with it.

Anger. Why my mom? Why our family? Why hasn’t something been done about it by now?

Helplessness. I’d been in the aging services field a long time and I couldn’t do a thing to stop it. If this can happen to us, then anything can happen. Fear begins. Will I or my other loved ones be next?

Guilt. If only I had tricked Mom and gotten her into see a doctor sooner. Maybe she would be a lot better now. After all, I knew the benefits of getting Mom on medications for the disease sooner rather than later.

Frustration. There’s not a stinking thing I can do to be proactive about the situation. I have had to be reactive.

But do I really have to be reactive? Or, can I do something now that will make a difference in the lives of others?

Will you please join me in the walk to rob this robber of its goal in life: to steal beautiful memories from others…

We have an opportunity to help others put bars on the windows of their memories to keep the robber out. I’d love to hear from you.

Alzheimer’s Memory Walk

Saturday, September 20th

8 a.m.

Nelson Park

Abilene, TX



Saturday, July 26, 2008

Here Keeeety, Keety, Kitty, Kitty!!!!

When Vann and I walk around McMurry's track, at about 9:30, a lady in one of the houses nearby opens her door and starts calling, "Here Keeeety, Keety, Kitty, Kitty." Vann and I always look at each other and smile (I giggle). There is something so funny about the way she calls the cats. And...something so comforting.

Thank you, Father, for the lady who calls her Keeeeeties every night.

Comforted by routine,

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sweet Caroline

I must say, I've been pretty grown up with Caroline being gone all summer. She's been in Nashville, Tennessee as a youth intern at the Harpeth Hills Church of Christ. Care has wanted to be a youth intern for as long as I can remember. Since her daddy was a youth minister, she always saw the benefits of positive role models in youth interns.

Caroline is at camp this week and we can't talk with her or e-mail her or Skype her. (Skype is a neat technology tool where you can "talk" with each other over your computers. You can see each other and have a real conversation.) It's about to drive us crazy! I know our baby is tired and I want to be able to offer her a bit of "Momma Love". Maybe to be more accurate, I NEED to give her some "Momma Love". I may need to give it more than she needs to receive it! Wow. Now, there's a thought... Nope. Don't want to land on that thought too long. : }

Anyway, Father, please be with our Care Bear and give her the strength, wisdom, joy and love she needs. And, Father, please be with us as our Twinkle Bear is growing up into the beautiful young woman you have created her to be. Thank you.

By the way, let's keep the photo above as our little secret. She sure won't feel like any "Momma Love" if she knew I posted this for the whole world to see.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Genocide in Rwanda

For some time I've been toying with the idea of giving a book review on the genocide in Rwanda for our residents of Wesley Court. Our adopted son, Serge, is from Rwanda and survived the 100 days of hell on earth in 1994. He was six years old when it began and 7 years old when it ended.

I wanted to present this horrific event in history in a way that would honor Serge and help others to understand the history leading up to the genocide and his country a little bit more. Yesterday I gave a book review at Wesley Court on the genocide in Rwanda. It was a very difficult topic to explore.

Our residents really enjoy others giving book reviews. We've had fun and informative book reviews at Wesley Court and they always walk away saying what a great time it was.

Yesterday was a bit different. I had prepared a power point presentation that had a lot of pictures and a time line leading up to the events of April 1994. Everything was prepared. We were meeting in one of the Dining Rooms at 3:30 in the afternoon. We had a good representation of residents. I lowered the room darkening blinds, turned off the lights and began the presentation.

After about ten minutes into the presentation I noticed that two of our residents were sound asleep! I tentatively looked around to see if I had drugged any others. Nope, just those two! (But to be honest, if I had been sitting in a dark, cool room at 3:30 p.m., I'd have done the same thing...and I'm not 90 years old!)

I hurriedly went through the presentation so as not to lose any others to slumber and quickly turned on the lights and called Serge to the microphone. We had a wonderful time of question/answer for him and he was his usual calm, charming and graceful self. All I really needed was Serge, not a powerpoint presentation!!

I told the residents that I wanted to be like Serge when I grew up, but I didn't want to have to go through what he had to get to be like him. It seems that is the way it works, isn't it?

There is someone you really admire and want their qualities, but then learn some of their story. You tell God, "Oh, I want to be like them, but..." There is always the qualifier, isn't there?

Serge brought a new friend with him yesterday. Her name is Shannon Lair and she just graduated from ACU. Next month she is heading to Rwanda for two years. What a precious soul.

God blessed us yesterday with Serge and Shannon's presence. But, sometimes overpreparation is just that. Too much. Keep it simple, Susie. :) KISS

Perfectly imperfect,

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today I Will Be Joyous

I love this! It's a declaration more than anything else.

"For the beauty slamming against my face is unwilling to be ignored." Amen!

Getting slammed,

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I was at a garage sale last weekend (I know. You're probably shocked.) Anyway, I met the most wonderful lady giving a garage sale and someone I consider to be a new friend.

First of all, all of her "junk" at her garage sale was fabulous and my kind of "junk." Secondly, she was an artist and third, she was a transplant to Abilene, like me.

She had moved from a big city, too, and Abilene's charm had taken a bit to get accustomed to. Believe it or not, for most of us who have moved from a large metroplex, it takes us a while to gear down from the traffic, noise, fast pace and overwhelming stress that makes it hard to breathe. We had learned to not only survive, but thrive on a lack of oxygen, not seeing friends as often and a general diet of anxiety.

Anyway, my new friend had shared that she had only been in Abilene for a little while and was still getting acclimated. But then, one day she walked into the great store on 14th Street called "It's About Time", and thought to herself, "I'm going to be o.k. now!"

I had the same thought when I walked into "It's About Time". The friendly owners and the mix of old and new merchandise and the displays really stirs my creative juices.

Anyway, I'm thankful for my new friend and look forward to lunch soon. I'm also glad to be so close to "It's About Time", a store made for dreaming. I'm also thankful to live in Abilene, a place where dreams come true.

God knows us so well and knows what fills us. For me, it's family, beauty, nature, girlfriends and an ability to look at things in a quirky way. Thank you, Father, for looking out for me and for giving me the gifts that are a nourishment to my spirit.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Turtle Feedings

Cheryl, my friend and business partner, and I have such fun with our Bed and Breakfast, Journey's Inn. It's been bliss getting it fixed up and making our guests feel welcome. We love providing opportunities for our guests to experience magic. Our tagline is "Escape the Ordinary." We believe that a "steady diet of ordinary" dulls the senses and takes you further away from possibilities God has placed in front of us.

Anyway.... we have three turtles in the pond at Journey's Inn. I love hand feeding our turtles Yurtle, Jimmy Chitwood and Juno (when she makes an appearance - she's shy). Someone suggested that we should let our guests be a part of the turtle feedings. I thought that might have some fun merit.

Well, I bought some wooden skewers at the store that could be used in feeding the turtles. All you would do is put a grape or another piece of fruit on the end of the skewer and the over zealous turtle wouldn't accidentally get your finger. Vann now teasingly refers to the skewers as turtle sticks.

Our guests last night, Cindi and David, came out to see the turtles being fed. We enjoyed a good conversation. But, Vann continues to relentlessly tease me about the turtle feedings. He joked that we should put in a kiosk where our guests can purchase their "very own" turtle sticks for a quarter each. Then he suggested our guests can have their very own souvenir of an autographed turtle stick. Eeba Geeba. Trying to run a business here, Bucko!

So, to avoid being teased further :), I'm just going to let our guests know they can feed the turtles if they wish and I'll provide them with the "turtle sticks." Guess they won't get to see Jimmy Chitwood do his cute little turtle dance or Yurtle almost climb up in my lap. Oh well. Tee hee!

Somewhat amused,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Peggy Lipton

You may remember I wrote about Peggy Lipton from the Mod Squad in an earlier writing. I got the sweetest surprise this morning from our oldest daughter, Katie Lea. I went into the bathroom to prepare myself for the day and there on the counter was the new book, Breathing Out, by Peggy Lipton and David and Coco Dalton. Kate left me a note saying she was glad that Peggy and I were both smiling now. Me, too! Thank you, Kitty. I can't wait to read it!

I'm so thankful for my thoughtful family and friends.

Gratefully receiving,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lou Pirkstead

A delightful gentleman, Lou Pirkstead, was well-liked by all. He was quiet and agreeable, thus a friend to all in our retirement living community in Atlanta. Mr. Pirkstead often sat outside on the bench with the other residents to absorb their conversation.

One day, Donna, a friend and co-worker, asked me to look out my window to admire Mr. Pirkstead's lovely earrings. Shocked, I looked and was entranced with his lovely pink, rose clip earrings! Yep! There he sat on the park bench in his farmer's overalls, plaid shirt, baseball cap and pink rose clip on earrings!

Donna and I searched our minds for a possible explanation but could come up with none. We dismissed it as a fluke until...

The next day, Mr. Pirkstead found himself with his friends on the bench again...wearing the pink rose clip earrings!

Donna bravely ventured outside and asked Mr. Pirkstead why he was wearing the earrings. He told her that they had been a gift and he felt he should wear them.

Well... O.K. then.

Life is interesting, isn't it?

Continually amazed,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Number One?

“The good life doesn’t require you to be number one.”~Alexandra Stoddard

We had a friend many years ago who was a brain surgeon. He said his father always pushed him to be the best. I nonchalantly said to him, “Oh yes, my parents always pushed me to do my best, too. He said with a heaviness on his heart, “Susan, there is an ocean of difference between being the best and doing your best.”

How true our friend was. In striving to be the best, you are never content. While I’m one that is constantly struggling to find that next wonderful “thing” I realize that is a part of me because I’m drawn to excellence. However, sometimes in our “quest for excellence”, we may sometimes skip over “wonderful” without even a glancing nod. What a shame.


Monday, July 14, 2008

To Rock Out? Or Not to Rock Out?

I was on a blog the other day that had Ella Fitzgerald playing. It made my heart sing. So, I got music, too. :) If you want to listen to it, check it out on the bottom right of my page. If you don't want to, don't listen.

Sometimes I just have to hear a little Nat King Cole, Marvin Gaye or get my feet tapping with Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move."

Feel the earth move, or not. Your choice. Hope your day is beautiful.

Sunday, July 13, 2008



Check out some of my favorite music on finetune music.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Want Out! (of the box, that is)

“Many intellectual, well-meaning people have not kept their souls alive because they have been afraid to express themselves honestly.” ~Alexandra Stoddard

Who are we really? Who are you? Who am I? I’ve already told you a little bit about myself and why I am writing as Lila. What about you?

Our girls are so unique (I know…just like the rest of us.). I remember when both of them were born I said a prayer and asked God to let them be anything he wanted, but just not vanilla. Boy, has he answered that prayer! Katie Lea is a passionate young woman who expresses her thoughts freely and her artistic abilities with abandon. Caroline has a beautiful heart for service…and purses and fashion.

Our culture excels at keeping us coloring in the lines or inside the proverbial box. I say, “What box?” When we open our hearts to God’s possibilities, there isn’t a box.

Inside the box it is dark, stuffy and light can’t penetrate. We can’t grow inside a box. It’s like those Chinese women who had their feet bound during their youth so their feet wouldn’t grow any more. That’s what living in a box does. It keeps us from being all we were meant to be. It keeps us from growing. And, we know that what isn’t growing is dying. What a tragedy it would be to die before we’re fully born.

What does your box look like? Family, social, job expectations?
Who are we really? Sans box? Come on. Poke a hole in the top of the box. Feel the light pouring in. Feels good, doesn’t it? Now take your other finger and widen the hole. Now, use your hands to really open it up. Let your eyes adjust for a moment . Now, step out on your cramped and tired feet. Reach up to the light giving life and begin running with abandon to the Father of Life who created you to live in his love… not a societal box.

Feeling the light,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

God was in Wal-Mart!

Vann and I were on a delicious vacation in Hartwell, Georgia last week. I’m reminded of an occurrence that happened there last year. We stopped at “the Walmart” to pick up a few items and we saw God!

He was in the form of a 65 – 70 year old light skinned black woman with light blue eyes. Those eyes pierced the darkness and saw good inside.

Vann and I were standing in the checkout line. In front of us were four young black men/boys dressed like trouble. You know, dreadlocks, the jail britches down around the knees. This woman of God was talking to these four lost boys and was speaking with such conviction and love…about the Lord. She wasn’t preaching at them but sharing about God’s great love…for them. They responded to her with humility and respect and called her ma’am. Before they left, she told each of them she loved them. At this point she glanced my way and smiled…and those eyes..oh those eyes. Those eyes were God’s. They were hungry to love.

Next up to be targeted to receive the Father’s love was Krissy, our cashier. Krissy was having trouble ringing up the red grapes of the woman with the translucent blue eyes. While Krissy called a manager to assist her she apologized to “the woman.” The woman didn’t miss an opportunity to encourage and tell Krissy she’d be great. (You didn’t get the impression the woman was telling her she’d be great at being a cashier, but that she’d be great - - period.) After Krissy finished ringing her up, the heart-seeing woman told Krissy that she loved her and God loved her and to not be discouraged as she was made for greatness. I was touched by the book, The Shack, which portrays God as an African (American?) woman. The author must have seen this woman and used her as the idea for his book.

“We can do no great things…only small things with great love.”

Where have you spotted God?

God hunting,

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mud...or Stars?

“Two men look out through the same bars; One sees the mud and the other the stars.” ~Frederick Langbridge

My mom was such an optimist. Looking back at my growing up years, I’m thankful to still be alive. For I know I must have tested her patience in a million ways. To those who know me now, you probably find it hard to believe that I was ever really negative. But, boy, howdy, was I ever.

I know that eighth grade is really the worst grade for many people and I certainly lived that out in my life! In fact, for that year I can claim the distinction of “neversmilingmywholeeighthgradeyear”. Honestly. (Well, in my mind, it’s honest, anyway.) Back then, The Mod Squad was a popular TV show. Julie, played by Peggy Lipton was my ultimate role model. She had long straight blonde hair (very desirable in 1972). I had long, wavy brown hair. This was before those fabulous flat irons that we use now. She was skinny and long legged. I was just average. She worked with two really cool guys on the squad (Linc and Pete) and they made a cool team. And here’s the real kicker…she never really smiled. So, I never smiled.

I remember once a friend asked me why I didn’t smile anymore and I told her that Julie on the Mod Squad didn’t smile. Wow! The power of TV! The other reason I didn’t smile is because I looked at “the glass as empty - - not even half empty.

Through the years I learned a bit more about how to look at things in a more positive light, though at times I see more mud than stars. God continually reminds me to be thankful in all circumstances and as a result of that gratitude the stars of life become more brilliant with each “thankful act.”

It is my wish for you, dear reader, that you and I will grasp the wonderful power of gratitude.

Star gazing,


What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


“I am still learning.” ~Michelangelo

I’m not certain, but I think I read that Michelangelo said this quote after sculpting the David. I’ve seen the David with my own eyes in Florence, Italy. I would say anyone that could sculpt such a magnificent piece of art out of marble wouldn’t be one to say that he was still learning.

The world is big. The world is wide. I know there is always something to learn.

I tend to want the quick learning tools. I took piano lessons for 10 ½ years. My mom dutifully took me to piano lessons once a week for that whole time period. The teachers and professors told my parents, “Your child has talent, but she won’t apply herself.” Witold Turkewicz, a music professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama even went so far as to tell my mom she was wasting her money. To learn, desire has to precede the education. I have to devote myself to what I want to learn today.

Today I choose to learn how to open myself up to God’s possibilities. Today, I choose to learn how to better appreciate beauty. Today, I choose to learn how to open my spirit to hear the voice of God.

What are you still learning?

The student,

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why Lila?

Have you ever wondered what you would name yourself if you could name yourself anything you would like? I've given this considerable thought. I'd name myself Lila. Why, you may ask? Why not Jennifer or Michelle or Kristen? While those are beautiful names, Lila describes me perfectly.

Lila is southern, a bit sassy (and wanting to be sassier)! That's me to a tee. I would never really change my name legally as I've already been known as Susan, Sue and Susie and adding a fourth name would be just plain weird. :) But my spirit...that part of me that is living, growing and refreshing daily is Lila.

So, I'm writing as Lila. Susan needs to branch out and grow. So, before you call the local psychiatrist to have me involuntarily committed, let me assure you, I'm really not crazy. Just trying to open myself to God's possibilities in my life. Life is a journey and a trip of one thousand miles begins with the first step. (How's that for using two quotes in one sentence?) Let the journey begin. Embraceable joy! ~Lila

What would you name yourself and why?